- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A liberal-led coalition of groups demanded Wednesday that Congress allow part of the Patriot Act to expire later this year, building pressure on House Democrats who will have to decide how much of the law to renew.

In a letter, the groups said the program the National Security Agency came up with to replace the bulk telephone data collection exposed by Edward Snowden turned out to be just as dangerous to Americans’ privacy, and the law that allows it must be repealed.

The groups, led by Demand Progress, the Project on Government Oversight and others, said they also want to see new First Amendment protections added into the Patriot Act, and more disclosure about how law enforcement is using the law, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We urge you to oppose, and our organizations will oppose, any bill to reauthorize Section 215 that does not include meaningful surveillance reforms,” the groups wrote to the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee. “Given the CDR program’s extraordinary breadth, its lack of demonstrated efficacy, and the government’s failure to lawfully implement it, repealing the CDR program is a necessary first step, although not sufficient without other major reforms.”

The Call Detail Records program is what the NSA came up with after Mr. Snowden exposed the bulk telephone metadata collection program the NSA had been running, and Congress imposed new restrictions in a previous update of the Patriot Act. The CDR was supposed to be more limited and targeted at actual threats, rather than a bulk collection.

But the groups say the CDR still saw 434 million records collected on more than 19 million phone numbers in 2018. And the NSA admitted it collected data beyond what it had intended — blaming the snafu on “technical irregularities.”

The NSA deleted all records collected and has reportedly concluded the program isn’t worth it, and will be shut down. But the activist groups said they want Congress to repeal the part of Section 215 of the Patriot Act that authorized the CDL.

Section 215 is slated to sunset on Dec. 15 unless Congress takes action to renew it.

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